Aug. 31, 2005 American Paradise Real Estate on St. John emphasizes teamwork, owner Joan Sparling said, adding, "We share information."
American Paradise opened in 1987 as a two-person office tucked back in the nether reaches of Wharfside Village's second floor.
"We added a couple more and a couple more and just kept growing," Sparling said.
Today, the busy real estate company has two locations on the ground floor at Wharfside Village and at Caneel Hill just outside Cruz Bay on the North Shore Road. The Caneel Hill area is also known as Lind Point.
Including Sparling, who is the agency's president, the company has a total of 13 people on staff selling real estate and managing vacation villas. They are Ted Johnson, Toni Lacer, Mary Nickbarg, Hilarie Oliver, David Worthington, Christine Barbich, Jackie Harrison, Kathy McLaughlin, Katie Porter, Angie Smith-Liburd, and Cindy Ward. Ce Ce Burns serves as the office manager.
Sparling said she looks for people with personality who will work well with the American Paradise team. They need computer skills. Sparling said that while some real estate or property management experience is nice, she has agents who do well despite having no background in the real estate field.
American Paradise's growth reflects that of St. John.
Sparling said that when she arrived on St. Thomas in 1980, St. John was a well-hidden secret with very few vacation villas.
"And there was only house that had a swimming pool," she said.
She said things were so slow, she couldn't imagine how she could make a living.
Today, the island has more cars, more buildings, more people, and many, many vacation villas. And a lot of them sell frequently.
"But prices have appreciated significantly," she said.
However, Sparling said the high prices mean that many people are priced out of the island's real estate market.
Sparling first visited the Virgin Islands on vacation with her father and sister.
After falling in love with the islands, she decided to make the move south from her native Seattle, where she worked for the city. She said she first worked at Sibs by the Sea Restaurant on St. Thomas as a waitress, later becoming the manager.
A stateside real estate broker who had a condo on St. Thomas urged her to get into the business. Sparling said she moved to St. John in 1985, working for one of the only two real estate agencies on the island Holiday Homes.
Sparling said every day is different. Some days she's out looking at properties to list. Others find her showing homes and lots to prospective buyers. And some days find her in the office tending to the myriad business details that keep things running smoothly.
"I'm never bored," she said.
To contact American Paradise, call the Wharfside Village office at 693-8352 or the Caneel Hill office at 776-0560.
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